Towards an energy-producing environment

In order to achieve the environmental and climate objectives in 2050, we must now make all the necessary preparations to accelerate the large-scale renovation of existing buildings. At present, less than a thousand buildings are made energy-neutral or positive every year. There must be a thousand of them a day in order to meet the 2050 targets. TNO is working on technological and organisational solutions to accelerate the renovation process.

The discontinuation of connecting new homes to the gas grid is an important step towards clearing up the natural gas deposits in our country. But achieving this in all existing homes and buildings is a huge task. TNO contributes to a CO2-neutral future in a variety of areas: technology for sustainable energy generation, smart energy systems and policy support.

There is much to be gained in the built environment. This domain is responsible for approximately forty percent of both energy consumption and CO2 emissions. TNO therefore focuses on research and applications for energy use, generation, storage and integrated solutions. We do this in cooperation with government, universities and businesses of all sizes, in the Netherlands and abroad.

Natural gas-free neighbourhoods

In order to make municipalities gas-free, much more is needed than developing technological solutions. Behaviour and influencing behaviour play an important role here. The involvement of residents, both owners and tenants, is to a large extent central to success. Too often, decisions on making neighbourhoods gas-free are taken without their involvement. By conducting interviews with residents and other parties involved, a good picture emerges of what owners consider important, to what extent they are prepared to change their situation and what is needed to do this. Within TNO, technologists, behavioural scientists and energy experts work together to make neighbourhoods gas-free in a way that is acceptable to everyone. By providing substantiated facts, parties can make the right choices.

Sustainability through renovation

Achieving the environmental and climate targets by 2050 would require making some 1,000 homes and buildings energy-neutral or positive every day. Currently this figure is less than a thousand a year. TNO is therefore working on a considerable acceleration of the renovation process in various ways. The first step is to map the built environment by type, materials used, type of insulation and so on. We then develop concepts for each type of building in order to make the building or home sustainable in an affordable way. Considerable gains in speed can be achieved by digitising and standardising the renovation process. By manufacturing pipes, connections and equipment such as heat pumps in a single package in the factory, entire blocks of housing of the same type can be renovated.

From natural gas to sustainable heat

Geothermal energy must become an important part of a mix of energy sources to replace heating by natural gas. The production of sustainable geothermal energy in the Netherlands is currently only 3 petajoules (PJ), but could grow to 50 PJ per year in 2030 and even 200 PJ in 2050. To this end TNO has developed a new approach in which the parties work closely together. This will also result in savings of around EUR 2 billion. By using innovative techniques efficiency and production can be increased by dozens of percent. In addition to drilling many more geothermal sources, seasonal storage is a major challenge for the coming period. TNO also explicitly focuses on the use of residual heat and the design of intelligent heat grids.


By making less than a tenth of the industrial sites in the Netherlands energy-positive in the coming decade, a substantial part of what has been agreed in the Climate Agreement for the built environment can be realised. Business parks do not attract a lot of attention in the Energy Transition, but have a promising potential for environmental gains.


Drs. ing. Maurice Hanegraaf